Lady Bears must rebound to beat West Virginia today
By Matt Larsen
A stingy, glamour-less first half defense paved the way for the No. 1 seed Lady Bears to overpower No. 16 seed Prairie View A&M, 66-30, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at the Ferrell Center.
“It was a game that we took care of business, I guess you’d say,” head coach Kim Mulkey said.
A collective defensive effort on Baylor’s part led to Prairie View A&M going 3 of 27 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
“Before every game that’s what I always say is play our defense and our offense will come,” sophomore Brittney Griner said.
Griner, usually to blame for altering and blocking the most opponents’ shots, took the back seat initially to sophomore Destiny Williams’ three first-half swats. Griner would finish the night with six of her team’s 14 total blocks.
Williams wasted no time getting started offensively either, connecting on her first jumper and following that up with two layups en route to a 16-0 opening run.
The Panthers managed their first points at the 10:56 mark in the first half and finished the half with just eight points, the fewest first half points in Women’s NCAA Tournament history.
The Lady Bears did not look as sharp as Mulkey would have liked on either end coming out in the second half, though.
“I thought we were kind of sloppy in the second half with that first group; and the thought crossed my mind to take all five of them off the floor,” the 11th-year coach said. “But I thought better, and I thought, ‘Let them work through it.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers began to find their shooting touch.
Siarra Soliz hit the Panthers’ first 3-point shot of the evening in the opening minutes of the second half.
The freshman kept the Lady Bears from building on their lead by hitting two more threes and finished with a team-high 12 points.
Following the slow second-half start, Pope took it upon herself to extend her team’s lead.
The sophomore was responsible for nine during a 13-2 run that led to Mulkey sitting her starting five and sending in five reserves to finish out the game.
“No matter what you did at the beginning of the season, no one will remember,” Pope said when asked about her energy. “You pretty much remember the end. It’s time to go get it.”
Pope and company will not be physically going anywhere just yet, though.
Round two features No. 8 seed West Virginia tonight in the Ferrell Center.
The Mountaineers are fresh off their own 79-73 win against No. 9 seed Houston Sunday in which they carried their knack for rebounding into the postseason.
Senior Madina Ali led all players with 15 boards and tacked on 13 points as well.
The Mountaineers came up just one rebound shy of 50 boards.
“Whoever has the most rebounds is going to win,” Williams said of the importance rebounding will play today.
“They had 25 offensive rebounds [against Houston]. Our job is to keep them off the offensive boards because they score best with second-chance shots.”
Rebounds only win games when converted to points, though, and that’s where Liz Repella came in with her season-high 26 Sunday.
On the year, the senior averages 14.3 a contest. However, her presence inside and outside the paint poses the biggest threat.
She has hit more than twice as many threes as any of her teammates (64) and averages the second most rebounds with 5.6 a game.
In Mulkey’s mind, though, the Mountaineers’ identity rests more on the other end of the court.
“When I watched film of West Virginia that is the first thing that I acknowledged … we are going to see a very well-coached defensive team,” she said. “They are very aggressive and they are very big. They are big in the paint. They are big on the wings. Defense is very important to their basketball team and I love that.”